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28 Before 28: Visit a New State

11 Dec

1471751_10101126037224447_256169690_nIn my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

I went to Virginia!

My small family has begun a new tradition. Over the past decade, we have scattered all over the country. My sister has lived in Alaska and now resides in Boston. I was in Washington, and now I reside in New York. My parents hold down the fort in Nevada. So gathering for the holidays can be difficult to arrange. So this is our second annual Christmas-in-a-different-place-and-on-a-different-date. We’re still working on the name.

Last year, we met up in the Central Coast of California the second week of January and this year, we met up in Williamsburg, Virginia for the second week of December. And this was the first vacation I’ve experienced where it rained the entire time. I’ve had plenty of vacations where there is a day or two where it is best to find indoor activities, but my trip to Virginia was all rain, all the time.

Gate towards a Revolutionary War Cemetary

Gate towards a Revolutionary War Cemetary

We went to a couple of museums that had artifacts from the colonial period, and we went to a Christmas boat parade where Revolutionary War soldiers marched by with their drums and flutes. But I wanted more! I wanted to see people dressed in every day garb. The last day we were there, we sucked it up and went into the heart of Williamsburg and toured the Governor’s mansion. History makes me weak in the knees, especially when it is all done up like Williamsburg is. Our tour guide was dressed as a colonial servant, and she gave us the tour as if we were invited to attend the ball that evening. I loved the hokeyness of it all. I had grand dreams of becoming a re-enactor in my old age.

I desperately wanted to wear the colonial garb. It was only $25 for a full day’s rental. Before the trip, I had imagined my whole family wearing the costumes with me. Instead they stared at me in disbelief. “Are you serious? Do you really want to do this?” My mom asked of me. I did! I did! But the pouring rain and the frigid temperatures led me to put that dream away for another day. I settled for wearing a bonnet and straw hat in the gift shop.

The wig room of the Governor's mansion.

The wig room of the Governor’s mansion.

I wish I had more time there. I wish I had more good weather time there. I’d love to go back and immerse myself in the history. It’s like an amusement park for nerds.

My dream comes true...kinda.

My dream comes true…kinda.

Hiking in the Catskills

10 Oct

2013-10-06 11.46.57 Life in the city has been stressful. So to get away for awhile, my boyfriend and I planned a weekend in the Catskills. We got a room at a Bed and Breakfast in a no stoplight town called Fleishmann. We wanted to enjoy some quiet, some fresh air, take in a bit of hiking.

We almost didn’t survive.

We asked our innkeeper Ben for some advice on different trails. He pointed out his favorite one called “Giant Ledge.” Ben described it as an “aggressive” 4-5 mile hike which I found intimidating, but I ended up deciding I could take the challenge. The next morning, around 10:30, we bought water, chips, Ring pops, and Reese’s Pieces at the corner store and headed to the summit.

The weather wasn’t ideal. Crisp fall air in the 60’s with some sprinkling rain. Describing the hike as aggressive was the perfect adjective. There were some steep sections of the trail with high rocks to climb on. I’m not in shape and found myself out of breath for most of the hike. After an hour or so, we reached what looked like a Giant Ledge. The trail was self-explanatory with blue markers scattered on the trees and no other signage. So we only assumed it was the lookout point we had been promised. Because of the poor conditions, the view was underwhelming and bizarre. It was an abyss.

"View" from Giant Ledge.

“View” from Giant Ledge.

We spent some time resting, eating our snacks, and throwing Reese’s Pieces into the mist. We had no concept of how high we were. The light rain was making us chilly, so we wanted to keep going and get back to our inn to shower and rest.

We continued on the path which after a brief decline, became sharply steep with huge rocks to climb over. My legs were shaking with each climb. We assumed that the trail was taking us to a smoother descent than the rocky climb we had just done.

We seemed to reach another summit, but we were both so tired, cold, and wet that we opted to not stare into the mist but keep going. Finally the trail started to descend. It was steep and the trail seemed less defined. We walked through brush that scraped our legs as we tried to not step in mud or slip on the leaves. The path became so misty that it was difficult to see where the next blue marker was. After about an hour of descent, without seeing any other people, and not being able to see up or down the mountain, worry set in.

We began the hike just before 11, and it was well after 3. The trail was only supposed to be 4-5 miles, at that point we should have been done, we shouldn’t still be walking. We didn’t know what else to do but to keep following the blue marked trail. If we had turned around, we were worried that we wouldn’t make it back before dark. As long as we stuck to the trail, we weren’t too lost in the mountains. It was frustrating and a bit unnerving, but our only option was to keep moving forward.

At one point, I slipped on leaves and fell smack on my butt. I sat in the rain and the mud and began to cry. My boyfriend knelt down to comfort me.

“We’re going to die up here,” I told him through my tears.
“Do you want to rest a while?” he asked.
I thought about it and shook my head “no.” He helped me up, I wiped my tears, and just put one foot in front of the other.

A little while later, I heard an ESPN alert go off on my phone.

“The Seahawks must have scored,” my boyfriend said.
“Since I have service, maybe I should look up the trail.”

I googled the trail name and found a site that said in all caps, “WHEN YOU REACH GIANT LEDGE, TURN BACK. DO NOT GO STRAIGHT.”


We called innkeeper Ben and told him our predicament. My phone was almost out of battery and the call kept cutting in and out. He said he thought he knew where we were, but that we should keep walking, and he would come meet us. We had continued on to a 15-mile trail.

We had no idea how far into this trail we were, but we had been descending for a while and decided to continue on. After about 90 minutes more, we see Ben on the trail ahead of us. A light at the end of the tunnel. He breathed a sigh of relief as well as he had been hiking for 45 minutes to find us. My legs have never felt more strained. I took to counting to keep them moving forward. As soon as I saw the road, I wanted to throw myself upon it and sleep for days. It was past 6pm.

Back at the inn, a hot shower has never felt quite that amazing. We threw out our muddy, soaked socks and headed to a fancy restaurant up the road. We feasted. Beer, onion rings, steak, fish, apple cake. As hyperbole as it may be, I was happy to be alive. I was happy to not be lost in the woods, to be a news story of hikers gone missing. I’m not going on another hike for a long time.

Taking a Moment

12 Aug

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I pooled our money together to get our own suite at the Staten Island Yankees. We took the ferry from Manhattan and as we arrived on the island, we were greeted with a torrential downpour. We ran to our box and settled in to wait out the storm. The grounds crew pulled a tarp onto the field, and we set to eating the food provided in the suite (four hot dogs for yours truly) and drinking the beer that our suite attendant dutifully got for us.

About three hours later, the game was cancelled. As we finished up the beer and talked about rescheduling the game, my friend Quincey asked me to come out on the balcony with her, onto the seats that overlook the field. “Take a moment with me,” she said.

I stepped out into the cool, humid air of summer, a breeze coming in off the water just beyond the right field fence. I assumed she was going to tell me about a boy who had been texting her or maybe laugh about the bizarre conversation going on inside the suite about last will and testaments. Instead she just stood there sipping her beer.

“I just needed to take a moment with someone who’d appreciate this,” she paused. “We live here.” She gestured out across the water at the lit up skyline of lower Manhattan.

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That picture is a poor representation of what that view is actually like. I do forget sometimes that I live here, how lucky I am, how despite the hard times and the uncertainty, I ended up here, in one of the most amazing cities in the world, continuously finding new adventures, new people. I’m living a life that I only dreamed about as an awkward 13-year-old in Northern Nevada. Quincey’s story is different than mine, but same general idea, finding happiness despite struggle on the other side of the continent from her home.

It’s easy to forget how amazing this city is, and I’m glad that I was reminded to stop and take a moment, because those small moments of appreciation are such an important key to happiness. I enjoyed it so much that I took another moment that same night as we rode the ferry back to the city, and I saw this lady. (Also not a great representation)

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Tourist Tuesday: Bronx Zoo

26 Feb

2013-02-26 11.49.27 I’ve become close friends with one of my co-workers, Adriana. We both have Tuesdays off, and since it is rare to have other friends who likewise have that weekday off, we often spend it together.

Tragically, there is a Tuesday shift that needs to be covered until June. Adriana and I have decided to take turns covering the shifts so that neither of us get overwhelmed with overtime. So this Tuesday was to be our last Tuesday together for a while. So we felt it was only fitting to spend it together at the Bronx zoo.

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I got so close to this little guy! Arm’s length away. Then I was frozen with fear, because birds are tiny dinosaurs.

The Bronx zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the world! Also, compared to other zoos I have visited, they are active in conservation education. A little bit too active some might say. There were some signs that were a bit harsh for a kid friendly place. Like the photo of a gorilla’s head bloodily on a plate. Whoa! Or the Vietnam War Memorial-esque tribute to extinct species. A little depressing, but the argument can be made that the ecological state of our world is likewise depressing, and perhaps children should be made aware of that as soon as possible. A good dose of reality never hurt anyone. Except when you tell a young child that Santa isn’t real. That’s just not nice. Isn’t it similarly cruel to show them gorilla decapitation?

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But the zoo is so beautiful. The exhibits are spacious, and the animals seem genuinely happy. I’ve never had a zoo experience where so many animals come close to the glass to say hello. Maybe it was because it was a quiet Tuesday, but I’d like to think that they somewhat enjoy their life in captivity. I mean plenty of their favorite foods available, no worries about predators, free healthcare, adoring crowds that squeal with delight whenever they move. Can I live in captivity?

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There was so much to see. I could have spent hours watching the gorillas. I wish I could have attended each and every sea lion feeding. So. Many. BIRDS! We walked into a beautiful building in the center of the zoo. As we entered, the smell of manure quickly hit us in the face. As we looked to our right, a rhino! Man, oh man, zoos are fun.

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But my favorites will always be the primates. They’re so human-like, so entertaining. By watching primates, there’s some sort of knowledge to be gathered about our own nature, our own instincts. At the exhibit with the above monkeys, we saw one of them start nodding her head up and down and run to a window at the side of the exhibit. When we went to the window, there was a man standing there, a zoo employee from Admissions. The monkey was gazing up at him.

“She seems to like you,” I said.
“I come here every day on my lunchbreak, and she always comes up to me…and does that.” The monkey turns around with her butt in the air, waving it back and forth.
“Aw,” Adriana says. “She’s presenting to you. She wants to mate with you!”
The monkey turns back around and gazes up to him, lifting her little monkey hand to the glass, black glassy eyes staring up at the mysterious man who visits her everyday. She turns back around, once again showing him her butt. I felt for her. I mean haven’t we all stuck our metaphorical butts in the air for someone who is simply, biologically not interested?

“Well, we’ll let you two have some privacy,” I said as we walked away. The man blushed, laughed, and returned his attention to his monkey friend.

Storm Nemo

14 Feb

For all the media hype and fuss about how this was going to be the blizzard of the century, it was just a blizzard. I was a little nervous, because I had been rather nonchalant about Hurricane Sandy and that did kind of turn out to be a big deal. But I think the city was just better prepared for a snow storm. We’d never had a hurricane before. There have been plenty of white winters in the city. The trains ran a little bit slower, but that’s really the only think I noticed.

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This is what I saw when I left my apartment the next morning to go to work. I’ve come to like working on Saturdays. It keeps me relatively sober on a Friday night, and I get a couple of weekdays off. But sometimes, like this day, I wish I could have been frolicking in the snow with my friends.

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Oh, Upper East Side. You can be pretty sometimes.

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One of my co-workers on Saturday is kind of a con-man, always trying to get out of doing work, trying to make an extra buck. He always leaves early on both our Friday and Saturday shift, even though him and I are supposed to take turns. But I need the extra hours, so I let it happen. On this day, he once again asked me if he could leave early.
“Yeah, but I’m taking a long, fucking lunch break,” I responded. My co-workers laughed around me while he looked at me bemused. “And she’s coming with me!” I pointed at one of the other technicians who always wants me to stand up to the con-man. So we ate our lunches and headed to Central Park.

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It was perfect. We flopped in the snow, attempted to throw snowballs, admired the winter wonderland, watched kids sled down the hills.

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This is my favorite one. A beautiful park with New York City in the background. Oh, and a dude drinking a beer in the foreground. I do wish I could have joined him.


27 Before 27: Eat Chicken and Waffles

12 Dec
The Reverend Al Sharpton

The Reverend Al Sharpton

In my 27th year of life, I’m attempting to do 27 new things. Full list here.

The food to-do’s on my list always give me warm fuzzies. Because, delicious food is the best, and I love trying anything new.

I’ve had fried chicken (albeit not in years), and lord knows I’ve had waffles. But this combo? It seems so odd, but it’s so right.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I think this has to do with the fact that I almost never eat it. I am absolutely not a morning person. Getting up to go to work in the morning is usually a struggle. Most mornings I just have cereal and milk, almost always Special K. But when I have a day-off, boy oh boy do I love to get pancakes or omelets or breakfast burritos or big puffy blueberry muffins. I should stop. I’m drooling.

So for my first Chicken and Waffles experience, I enlisted my friend Gian who is the one who introduced me to the concept. We found a place in Harlem called Amy Ruth’s. The place was charming, and when you are seated, you are greeted with a basket of corn bread. Corn bread, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Does anyone get that Chris Rock reference? Are you amazed that I have the ability to reference Chris Rock? I’m kind of amazed with myself.

So back to the chicken and waffles. The waffles part is misleading, because really it’s only one. But it’s massive, and it was fluffy, so no complaints. The chicken part lived up to its half by being about as large as a small chicken. I didn’t even really know how to hack into it, but I figured it out.

Delicious! The salty crunch of juicy fried chicken, combined with the fluffy savory of a waffle, and drizzle some maple syrup on that while you’re at it. I was a happy lady. I’m embarrassed to report I couldn’t finish it. And I was only about a fifth of the way through it while Gian was all but licking his plate. But it was a satisfying day-off breakfast meal. So satisfying that I didn’t even really feel the need to eat the rest of the day. That’s an amazing breakfast.

Tourist Tuesday: A Salt and Battery

23 Oct


My job is very physical, and I work 10-11 hour shifts. In recompense for this, my co-workers and I are allotted a three-day weekend. All of my friends gush over this and tell me how lucky I am, but in my line of work, it’s really necessary. For the last couple of months, I picked up an extra shift and was working 5-6 days a week, clocking in on average between 50-60 hours. While a lot of people do this, a lot of those people sit at a desk. Not that their jobs aren’t challenging or tiring, but there’s a difference between staring at a computer all day and lifting 60lb dogs and trying to avoid getting killed by a cat.

So now, I finally have my three-day weekends back. While I spent the last two weekends relaxing and catching up on so many things that fell by the wayside, I can already feel that three days off can get a bit much. I’ve picked up my knitting, I’ve become a football fan, I’ve been reading and writing. But I also decided that I wanted to explore my city more. I’ve been in New York for two years, and I fear I’ve fallen into a routine. With so much in the city to do and see, this is unacceptable. I subscribe to a ton of email lists, people are always telling me about cool things to do and see, I even own a 1001 things to do in New York book!

My three-day weekend is Sunday-Tuesday, so I have designated Tuesday: Tourist Tuesday, on which I will try to force myself out into the city to see something new. This week “A Salt and Battery.”

One of the best parts about New York are all the ethnic neighborhoods. It has your obvious Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem. But there’s also Koreatown, Little Bombay, a Dominican neighborhood, a Haitian neighborhood, a Hasidic neighborhood. Every nationality is represented, even the ones that don’t seem to need representation. For instance, there is a small street in the West Village that has a string of British places. A pub, an amazing tea house, a grocery store of British thing, and this amazing fish and chips place.

I’d been craving fish and chips for weeks. But all the places near my work were too expensive, and when I went to local bars with friends, I’d already eaten a healthy dinner at home. So I left it to Tuesday to go to the most authentic place in the city for a traditional British snack. The weather was perfect, and by perfect I mean 55 degrees, cloudy and drizzle. The perfect London weather for my British day. I threw on my raincoat and went.

The place itself is very hole in the wall, with only a couple of stools against the walls for seating. I got the Pollock and chips, as they don’t serve cod anymore. It was exactly what I wanted. I doused it in the Heinz vinegar, sat on a stool, and looked out onto the streets of the West Village, watching people scamper home from work.

The men that worked there were adorable, slinging fish with their British accents. The radio was broadcasting a station from London. It was perfect. My meal came to be about $13, including a bottle of water I bought. And it was filling. I didn’t even get to finish all my chips, which is not a common thing for me. I only wish I had room for their deep-fried Mars bars.